Wrestling event in Berwyn draws ire of little people group

By Jean Lotus Staff Reporter

Gary Arnold, of Little People of America, addresses the Berwyn City Council June 26 regarding a planned “Extreme Midget Wrestling” event. Aldermen (from left) Robert Fejt, Jeanine Reardon and Jose Ramirez look on. (Chronicle Media)

“I’m no stranger to shameless self-promotion and unique marketing,” said the proprietor of Berwyn’s Cigars and Stripes Bar-B-Q.

He was preparing on the eve of an event billed as “Extreme Midget Wrestling” to take place in the parking lot July 27, admission $20.

Ronn W. Vrhel is listed as the business owner, but “Ronnie Lottz” is the notoriety-craving impresario of the bar, who made headlines in 2015 for a two-way mirror discovered in the ladies’ room.

“CNN gave me advertising worth about $400,000,” Lottz said about the mirror incident.

The Berwyn City Council voted 6-2 July 26 to approve a permit for the event.

At the council meeting, Gary Arnold, of Oak Park, former president of Little People of America complained that the word “midget” is considered a slur and insult.

“Midget wrestling markets little people and people with dwarfism as a source of entertainment, no different than a freak show that would put a little person on public display simply because of his or her stature,” Arnold said during public comments.

“Midget wrestling hurts me and my family,” said Arnold’s wife, Katie Arnold. ”It contributes to an environment where people of short stature are dehumanized,” she said. ”Some people may think this is OK because the wrestlers are choosing to do this. However, that is a deflection of the issue. This is really about money. Exploitation of different bodies that draws a paying crowd.”

Aldermen Jeanine Reardon and Jose Ramirez voted against the permit.

A photo of British dwarf wrestler “Lord Littlebrook” decorates the wall of Cigars and Stripes. (Chronicle Media)


“I’m concerned about the coliseum effect,” Reardon said. “That folks go and are entertained by difference. So human beings, because of who they are and how they look, are open to ridicule. I understand these men have chosen to do it, but that doesn’t lessen the impact.”

The Berwyn Development Corporation briefly advertised the event on its Why Berwyn? marketing page as co-hosts, but that was an inadvertent Facebook quirk, said Amy Crowther, director of chamber services.

“The BDC did not sponsor the event, nor were any city funds used to promote it,” Crowther said. Business members receive a listing in the event calendar, she said. “Typically were not going to be posting events that don’t comply with policies and upset people. We did remove that tag. It was an oversight.”

Berwyn has developed an underground wrestling scene with events at the Eagles Hall, which hosts AAW Pro and Lucha Libre matches.

Lottz, a former amateur wrestler and promoter, has hosted the Extreme Midget Wrestling Federation show before at his tavern. He proudly displays photos of dwarf wrestlers, such as the late “Lord Littlebrook” and his son, the “Karate Kid.” Born Eric Tovey, Littlebrook was a British wrestler who died last year at age 87.

“These pictures have been on the wall here since 1998. Lord Littlebrook and his son were in here a couple years ago and they were touched when they saw these photographs,” Lottz said. “This event represents everything that this bar stands for, entertainment and harmless fun,” Lottz said. “I could have had all the news channels at City Hall – 2, 5 and 9 – and this place would be even more packed for the show, but the truth is, I’m understaffed right now.”

Ronnie Lottz talks about a two-way mirror controversy at Cigars and Stripes in 2015 (Photo of Cigars and Stripes website)

The Fort Worth, Texas-based “Extreme Midget Wrestling Federation” performs the “Baddest l’il show on earth” on tour schedules with stops at Harley Davidson motorcycle showrooms, Texas roadhouses and the Lake Charles, La., Civic Center. The group performed in Lombard July 21.

Skyler Graham Ward, of Oklahoma City, is owner and booking agent for Center Stage Entertainment. Ward — who is not a little person — declined to be interviewed.

“This is a great show and we employ more people with Dwarfism than any company in the USA,” Ward said in a statement.

The performance itself, videoed and posted on the bar’s social media pages, shows audience members laughing then cheering at athletes performing handstands on the ropes and other acrobatic stunts requiring great body strength.

“You get people saying, ‘Why are you degrading yourself? You’re making a mockery of yourself!’” said a wrestler identified as Lil’ Show, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I say, ‘How is that?’ I’m basically living proof that we can do anything — anything — these tall people can do.”

Dwarfism or “short stature” is defined as an adult height of less than 4 feet, 10 inches. Often a hereditary condition, the most common form, achondroplasia, occurs in 4 to 15 out of 100,000 live births.

Arnold said Little People of America is working to push back against use of the word “midget” everywhere from high school mascots to agricultural products such as “midget corn” to children’s hockey leagues.

He said the argument that just because a person or group is willing to identify themselves with the word that does not remove its slur connotations.

“Once you use a word like midget to market yourself as entertainment, you’re marketing not just the wrestling, but the fact that they’re of a different stature,” Arnold said. “Once you’ve done that you’ve crossed the line. It’s not about yourself it’s impacting the entire community choice to market yourself as a midget, freak show or carnival side show. And if you affect the community, you have to answer to the community.”

Lottz dismissed Arnold’s complaints.

“He’s looking for attention, for government money for his programs,” Lottz surmised. “Everyone has an agenda, and if you don’t believe that, I’ve got a mirror I’ll sell you.”


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